Thursday, August 27, 2009

what is "bokeh" - and how to get it

little man Nate

This weekend I decided to practice photographing catch lights with my friend Nate, but when I downloaded this photo it made me think of another lesson - how to get "bokeh" in your photos.

In a nutshell, bokeh is the aesthetic quality of the out of focus areas in your image. In the photo of Nate above, the tiny circles surrounding his head? Bokeh. The word "bokeh" is derived from the Japanese word boke which means "haze" or "confusion." There are entire groups on flickr dedicated to the wonderful world of bokeh.

So how can I get me some of that bokeh, you ask? Simple - aperture and shallow depth of field.
OK, so maybe it's not quite that simple:

  • start with a low aperture or f number as it's also known (see examples below)

  • if you're using a telephoto lens, zoom it out to the longest length

  • move in so your physically as close to the subject as your lens will allow you to be, yet still focus properly

  • photograph subjects where the background objects aren't too close behind

  • light of some sort, whether it be sunlight steaming through branches or street lights when doing a night portrait, will be helpful when shooting bokeh
(thanks to SLR Photography guide for these tips)

Need more guidance? Check out this clip from You Tube:

Once you get past the shadow puppets, the spotty grammar, and the fact that Rock Star energy drink is the focal point of choice, this video does a good job illustrating just how close you need to be to your subject and the optimal aperture setting to use to achieve some beautiful bokeh.

And for most of you, by the time you read this post I will be testing at my kickboxing class for my yellow belt. I won a month's worth of lessons at my daughter's preschool silent auction, and I became hooked. It is an awesome workout, but for some reason the thought of physical testing for a belt? FREAKS me out. I have no idea why - I've given birth twice. Once without drugs (and not by choice, but that's another post for another time). I passed the bar exam. I prosecuted 7 criminal trials all by myself. But the idea of having to try and break a skinny piece of wood with my knee in front of my classmates has me VERY nervous.

So wish me luck - or leave a comment to see how I did...


Anonymous August 27, 2009 at 10:06 AM  

wait....i knew you were kickboxing, but not getting "belts". What the heck!